Raiders head coach Jon Gruden used a first-round draft pick on cornerback Aqib Talib 10 seasons ago when Gruden was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He might be able to get Talib in a silver-and-black jersey simply by convincing general manager Reggie McKenzie to use a sizable chunk of the Raiders salary-cap space on the five-time Pro Bowler.
Word emanating from Denver is that the Broncos still like Talib as a player, but they hate his $11 million base salary for next season. And, the Broncos need salary-cap room to address other issues. Hence, the Broncos reportedly are trying to trade Talib. If they don’t find a team willing to take on Talib’s contract and mercurial play, then they just might cut him altogether — one report says teams are waiting for the Broncos to dump Talib.
That’s where Gruden, McKenzie and the Raiders enter the picture. Gruden knows Talib as well as anyone, and he thought enough of him in 2008 to make him a first-round pick. He also knows what makes Talib tick, so he doesn’t have to wonder whether he’ll be able to keep Talib in line.
Oh, and the Raiders have a massive need to cornerback, a position that Talib plays as well as anyone in the NFL when he is healthy. Talib has been selected to the past five Pro Bowls and played a huge role in making the Broncos defense among the league’s best in recent seasons.
We know, we know, what about the little issue about Talib and Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree being on the same team when they can’t even get along on the same field? Well, a few things on that.
One, it’s not a certainty that Crabtree will be asked back after his uneven performance last season, which included his ejection for getting in an altercation with Talib early in a game Nov. 27. Both players were ejected and suspended for two games, though Crabtree’s punishment was reduced to one game upon appeal.
That marked the second straight season in which Crabtree and Talib engaged in extracurricular activity while their teammates played football. In 2016, Talib yanked Crabtree’s gold necklace from him and flung it on the ground.
Two, if they are in the same locker room, then they finally can hash out their differences, hug, shake hands, laugh about it and then join forces in helping the Raiders get back to their winning ways. It happens every year when one-time rivals are thrust into the same locker room.
As for the money, any team trading for Talib would be obligated to assume his contract, which runs through 2019, when Talib is slated to earn $8 million in base salary.
But, the Raiders could structure Talib’s contract any way they see fit if they sign him to a free-agent deal. In the off chance McKenzie trades for Talib, he likely would get Talib to agree to a restructured contract in advance, which is common in these situations.
Regardless what it takes, players of Talib’s stature don’t come free often. Sure, he turns 32 on Feb. 13, but he’s durable and a proven talent. He also could help with the development of second-year cornerback Gareon Conley and take pressure off Conley by covering the opposing team’s top receiver each game.
Gruden and McKenzie shouldn’t give this one a second thought if Talib can be pried away from the Broncos, even if it’s via trade and the asking price isn’t too high. If McKenzie has second thoughts, he should be reminded that he used the No. 12 pick on cornerback DJ Hayden in 2011.